With so many different kinds of seafood being eaten raw or undercooked, it only makes sense that people would wonder if you can eat raw mussels. After all, plenty of people eat raw oysters, so why wouldn’t you be able to eat raw mussels?
If you eat raw or undercooked mussels, you run the risk of being exposed to a variety of different pathogens that can cause serious foodborne illness. To prevent this, it’s important to fully cook your mussels by making sure that the shells come open during the cooking process.
Even though it is not considered safe to eat raw mussels, you may find some restaurants where they are served that way. This is due to the fresh and salty flavor that raw mussels can provide.
Is It Safe To Eat Raw Mussels?
A lot of the time, people will ask if it is okay to eat raw mussels. After all, there are plenty of kinds of seafood that are eaten raw like salmon, tuna, and occasionally oysters.
Most of the time when you go to a restaurant your mussels will be served fully cooked in some type of sauce. This allows you to pull the meat out of the shell and then dip it in the sauce that accompanies the dish. A lot of people like dipping the meat into garlic butter or a wine-based sauce.
While you can eat raw mussels, and you may even find some restaurants that serve them that way, it is not recommended to do so. This is because raw mussels can contain bacteria and pathogens.
Normally, the cooking process kills off any bacteria or pathogens that might be present in the mussels. If you don’t cook them, you run the risk of leaving bacteria and pathogens alive in the meat which can make it unsafe to eat.
Some of the most common bacteria and pathogens for mussels to carry are E coli, Salmonella, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. These can be found in almost every species of shellfish and it is very difficult to tell which are infected and which are safe to eat.
For that reason, it is always best to cook your mussels before eating them. That way, you won’t have to worry about the possibility of becoming sick due to the bacteria in the mussels.
What Happens if You Eat Raw Mussels?
If you eat raw mussels that happen to contain any of the bacteria listed above, you are likely to suffer from some pretty unpleasant symptoms.
The most common symptoms of infection by these bacteria include fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Most of the time, the only way to treat these conditions is by drinking plenty of water and waiting for it to pass.
In severe cases where you are unable to keep food or liquids down, you may have to seek treatment in the hospital. There they will be able to provide you with IV fluids to keep you from becoming dehydrated while you wait for the illness to pass. Sometimes you can be treated with antibiotics depending on the bacteria.
These symptoms tend to be much worse if you are pregnant, immune compromised, or elderly. For this reason, people who fit into any of these categories should always have their food fully cooked to prevent the transfer of food-borne illnesses.
What Do Raw Mussels Taste Like?
If you’ve cooked mussels before, know that they taste very similar to raw mussels. This is because even when fully cooked, the mussels aren’t cooked very long so they won’t significantly change the texture of flavor.
Raw mussels should have a light, salty flavor. They have an umami taste and overall taste very similar to other types of shellfish with a slightly sweet flavor hidden behind the saltiness.
If you decide to eat mussels raw you can eat them with a light sauce, like lemon juice or soy sauce, or you can eat them plain to fully experience the flavor. Some people also enjoy dipping them into a cocktail sauce when served raw, much like a fresh shrimp cocktail.
Can You Eat Undercooked Mussels?
Just like with raw mussels, you can eat undercooked mussels, but you will be facing certain risks when you do so. Since the mussels are not fully cooked, there is a chance that the bacteria that the mussels contain have not been fully killed off. If you eat them, you could become sick in the same way as was described above.
Fortunately, there is a super easy way to tell when your mussels have been fully cooked. When you place them in the pan, the shells of the mussels should be tightly closed. As they cook, the shells will begin to open. By the time all of the shells have opened, the mussels are fully cooked and can be consumed safely.
If some of the shells do not open during the cooking process this could mean that the mussel has already spoiled or that it was dead for a significant time before cooking. This could mean that bacteria has already begun to take over the mussel and at this point, it should not be eaten.
The shell should also be free of cracks or other breaks before cooking. Any cracks or holes in the shell provide an opportunity for harmful bacteria to enter the muscle and infect the meat that you’ll be eating.
If you eat mussels that died before cooking, you could become ill from the bacteria in the food.
How to Cook Mussels Perfectly
To prevent the bacteria in raw or undercooked mussels from making you sick, you’ll want to make sure that the mussels are cooked perfectly. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest way is steaming them in a pan with water.
You’ll want to put them in a pan with an inch or two of water on the bottom of the pan and then allow it to steam.
Within 3-5 minutes steam should be coming out from beneath the lid. This is the first sign that your muscles have been fully cooked.
When you open the pan, you should see that the shells of the mussels have come open. This occurs because the connective tissues that hold the shell shut have come open allowing it to pop open easily. The steam also helps with this.
Keep in mind that if one of the shells is open before you’ve cooked it, this does not mean that you can eat the mussel raw. Instead, this means that the mussel probably died before it was packaged and you should avoid eating it. A mussel that has been dead for quite some time could have lots of dangerous bacteria growing inside it.
The next time you decide to cook yourself mussels for dinner, you’ll want to make sure that they are fully cooked before you eat them. If you eat undercooked or raw mussels, you’ll run the risk of contracting a foodborne illness from the bacteria that they can harbor. It is extremely difficult to tell which mussels carry bacteria and which don’t.
To prevent contracting a foodborne illness, it is recommended that you fully cook your mussels before eating them. The easiest way to make sure that your mussels are fully cooked is by making sure that the shells have come open.
However, you’ll need to ensure that the shells are not damaged and are fully closed before using this method. If not, it will be difficult to tell if any of the mussels had died before cooking. Make sure to check all the shells before cooking them to ensure that you can throw away any that have been damaged.